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Top 10 Signs You're Watching a Michael Bay Movie

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Dale Anthony Cook

Are there explosions, beautiful humans, more explosions, and American flags? You're probably watching a Michael Bay movie! For this list, we’re looking at the common tropes and cliches that seem to always show up in films directed by Michael Bay, especially his action films. Our list covers movies such as “Armageddon”, “Pearl Harbor”, “Transformers”, and more! Join WatchMojo as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Signs You're Watching A Michael Bay Movie.

Check out the voting page for this list and add your picks: https://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Michael+Bay+Movie+Cliches. Special thanks to our user Dellboy for suggesting this idea!


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Script written by Dale Anthony Cook

Top 10 Signs You're Watching A Michael Bay Movie

Every film director has their own signature style . . . and some styles are easier to spot than others. Welcome to and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Signs You're Watching A Michael Bay Movie.

For this list, we’re looking at the common tropes and cliches that seem to always show up in films directed by Michael Bay, especially his action films.

#10: A Basic Plot Loaded with Filler

It’s fair to say that the Michael Bay Movie experience is much more about visceral thrills than intellectual complexity. Narrative wise, Bay likes to stick to a pretty simple formula: pit some good guys against some bad guys and make sure the good guys win. Ideally, this battle plays out on a large and expensive scale in order to pitch in cars, fighter planes, helicopters, and even robots from outer space as long as it follows the formula. If this all sounds a little too simplistic and predictable, then credit goes to Michael Bay for finding ever new and explosive ways to present the standard ‘heroes and villains’ story.

#9: That Mainstream Rock Soundtrack

If you’ve been watching a movie for over 30 minutes, and there hasn’t been a blast of guitar-led rock music, you can be pretty sure it's NOT a Michael Bay movie. While this compulsion for rock heavy soundtracks started gathering momentum with the release of Armageddon, it had reached full flow by the time Bay got started on the Transformers franchise. Since then, his soundtracks have almost completely been populated with mainstream rock anthems. There are exceptions to the rule of course: Pearl Harbour was rock n’ roll free, but that's only because Linkin Park weren't writing music during World War II.

#8: Sunsets

We were all warned as children that staring directly into the sun was bad for our eyes. Yet only one of us thought up enough loopholes that they were able to build an entire directorial career out of it. Whether captured through a wide or long lens; filtered through the blades of passing aircraft; or slowed down and allowed to shimmer in all its glory, the sight of the sinking sun is certainly Michael Bay’s go-to natural attraction for epic movie shots. Shine on, Michael, shine on.

#7: Teal & Orange

As a lover of sunsets, it makes sense that Bay would favour a color grade that accentuates all the orange in the frame; add to this a cool teal hue for contrast, and voila! Over recent decades, the teal and orange color pallet has become the default setting for many Hollywood directors, and Michael Bay played a huge part in that phenomenon. As with his fondness for rock soundtracks, this stylistic preference reached its peak during the Transformers franchise - so much so that researchers recently used the movies to create an algorithm to automate color grading.

#6: Intense Camera Work

Michael Bay’s directorial style involves stock moves that he uses so often they’ve become synonymous with his name. This is especially true with his action packed and high intensity camera work. Wanna-be action directors from around the globe know that their movies are incomplete without such Bay standards as the “low angle framing of the hero” otherwise known as the hero shot, and the “glamourising slow-mo”. As with many of Bay’s trademarks, these these stylistic choices have not only become staples of his own movies but clichés of the action genre as a whole.

#5: Military Worship

One thing you could never accuse Michael Bay of being is unpatriotic. Just think about all the times the star spangled banner shows up in his movies - trust us, it happens a lot. The most obvious example of Bay’s patriotism though has to be his gung-ho portrayal of the American military. If they aren’t kicking some bad guy ass, they’re toting around some seriously impressive weaponry - or both. In moments of perfect synergy, the flag and the military will often be shown together, thus allowing Bay to go full patriot.

#4: Racially Stereotyped Characters, Often Used for Comedic Relief

Michael Bay has been around for a long time . . . and unfortunately his way of approaching some characters often feels behind the times. His salt-of-the-earth heroes and damsels-in-distress are stock figures, and another recognizable trademark is the use of racial stereotypes for comedic relief. Now, “drink your prune juice” might have been a pretty funny moment . . . but Skids and Mudflap? Really? You’d think that having turned his attention to giant space robots, Bay would be able to avoid this trope, but he can’t seem to help himself.

#3: Blatant Product Placement

Michael Bay started out his career directing commercials. Remember that first “Got Milk” ad? Yep, that was Michael Bay. The skills he picked up in those formative years are still present in his work today. There's the jokey dialogue; the slick camera work; and his undying love for the sight of an automobile in full flow. But probably the main element is his ability to hock products while the cameras rolling. It’s pervasive, it’s in your face, and like it or not, it’s one way you know you’re watching a Michael Bay movie.

#2: Insanely Hot People and Women as Objects

We all like to see beautiful people on screen sometimes. None more so however than Michael Bay. Both his actors and actresses tend to be generously blessed in the looks department, and bulging biceps and slim waists are a Bay staple. He’s particularly infamous however for the latter, thanks to his damsels-in-distress - beautiful female characters whom the camera often lingers on, although they’re actually given little to do in terms of the overall plot. We love Mikaela, but we gotta wonder: is this really how you spray paint a motorcycle?

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:


Camera Tilting

Lens Flares

#1: Explosions, Lots of Explosions

So, here we are, and the number one sign that you’re watching a Michael Bay Movie is: . . . the subtle use of artificial light! OK no, we’re just messing with you, it’s the explosions. That’s right, in what must come as a huge surprise to absolutely no one, Michael Bay’s number one signature move is making things explode. In fairness to Bay, he makes things explode in very entertaining, and sometimes unexpected ways. There’ll always be a place in cinema for thrilling action sequences and that might just be the reason - to answer the eternal question - why Michael Bay gets to keep on making movies.

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